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This is part one of a three part series introducing the Mobile Commons Enroll text message content library, and highlighting some of the conceptual and technical challenges we faced during its development. Meeting these challenges required building scientific and practical insights into the library’s design — both for the individual messages and the set as a whole. We’ve learned quite a bit and think the outcome well worth the effort.

This post was written by Benjamin Stein, CTO & Co-Founder of Mobile Commons, and Mark Hunter, MPH PhD(c) Health Services & Policy Analysis, University of California, Berkeley.

Mobile Commons Enroll is a text messaging solution to educate the uninsured about the new health insurance marketplaces and drive them to enrollment. By sending information to people in a way that is easy for them to digest, on the device they have in their pocket, you can provide them insight into the health care system, and the inspiration they need to sign up.

A key feature of Mobile Commons Enroll is a pre-written library of text message content, which can be used out-of-the-box or customized for your target population. The library, co-authored by health care experts and Mobile Commons’ mobile strategy team, includes messages related to consumer education, empowerment, and enrollment.

At its heart, the Mobile Commons Enroll text message library is focused on the health insurance exchanges and the consumers who are likely to come into contact with them. In the next post, we’ll talk about who those people are, what they’re like, and how we tailored our content to meet their needs.

But first we had to consider the purpose of a mobile campaign. What, in short, should our text message content library be designed to do?

Beginning with the End in Mind

Organizations that are committed to making health reform work have two high-level commitments:

  • First, they’re laboring on behalf of their clients, the consumers. These organizations care about meaningful consumer engagement. They want to actually be helpful while also being mindful of the various constraints consumers will face.
  • Second, these organizations are concerned about the efficient use of their own resources. They want to ensure that when consumers need to make use of high-intensity or high-cost services, that interaction is as productive as possible.

Reconciling these two imperatives is the fundamental design philosophy behind the content library. A mobile campaign can educate and empower the consumer to make the best possible use of an organization’s other resources when, or if, the consumer needs them. For example, it can ensure that people are well-informed and adequately prepared prior to an in-person enrollment counseling session. Messages can supply helpful content and direct consumers to additional resources at the appropriate time.

For some people, that information will help them gain the confidence to tackle navigating the insurance exchanges on their own. For others, the messages won’t substitute for human interaction; rather, they will make those necessary interactions more productive. A well-designed campaign will prepare consumers to recognize, expand, and then transcend the limits of their current knowledge and capabilities.

Helping Consumers Within the Existing System

So that’s the basic idea behind the content library. The messages are designed to help consumers in a particular way – to increase their knowledge and confidence in a system in which other help is available. Accordingly, some messages explicitly link consumers to appropriate resources such as a web site, phone number, or community center.

However other messages, including complete modules, are focused on education and are designed to culminate in some positive action. The library’s insurance education module explains key health insurance concepts in a simple way. Some messages introduce the basic idea of insurance and its value. Others focus on premiums, deductibles, co-payments, covered benefits and the relationship of premiums, benefits, and actuarial value. Even seemingly esoteric concepts like selective contracting are covered. Why? Because inviting people to think about their health needs and physician preferences before the moment when they’re actually faced with choices increases the value of that interaction.

The library has information and insights that can apply to anyone. That’s true even for consumers who are already insured, or who won’t need to go to the exchanges. We’ve designed our messages so that they can be a valuable resource for anybody who needs to navigate our health care system – which, really, means anybody at all.

Coming Up…

In future posts, we’ll look more closely at the content within the library. Our message library was guided not only by the program’s goals, but also by its target audience, as well as unique policy and technical considerations.

Learn More About Mobile Commons Enroll